The effects of heat and massage application on autonomic nervous system

Yonsei Med J. 2011 Nov;52(6):982-9. doi: 10.3349/ymj.2011.52.6.982.


Purpose: The objective of this study is to evaluate the effects of heat and massage application on autonomic nervous system.

Materials and methods: One hundred thirty-nine subjects volunteered and completed this study. Heat and massage was daily applied for 40 minutes, 5 days a week for 2 weeks. Primary-dependent measures included heart rate variability, sympathetic skin response, and serum cortisol and norepinephrine levels.

Results: Serum cortisol levels were significantly decreased at 2 weeks compared to baseline (p=0.003). Plasma norepinephrine levels at 4 weeks were significantly decreased compared to baseline (p=0.010). Heart rate, using the power spectra, increased significantly after 2 weeks compared to baseline. Of autonomic nerve conduction measures, latency was significantly increased at 2 and 4 weeks compared to baseline (p=0.023, 0.012), and amplitude was significantly decreased at 4 weeks compared to baseline (p=0.008). There were no serious adverse events such as burns or other major complications.

Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that heat and massage applications provide relaxation to the autonomic nervous system without serious adverse events.

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects
  • Hot Temperature / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Male
  • Massage / adverse effects
  • Massage / methods*
  • Norepinephrine / blood


  • Hydrocortisone
  • Norepinephrine